Thanks for Nothing (and Everything): On Walmart, Black Friday, and Thich Nhat Hanh

November 24, 2014 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

walmart binsIt’s Thanksgiving week and Walmart is getting ready to ruin the party by asking nearly one million of its workers to come in on the holiday to get a jump-start on the Black Friday consumer frenzy. Given its size and influence, Walmart’s move, if successful, is likely to set a trend in the industry and wreck Thanksgiving for millions more underpaid service sector workers in the future.

Fortunately, OUR Walmart is responding in kind by promising the biggest Black Friday Strike ever with allies in labor and the community promising to join hands with them in their protest. As Think Progress recently reported:

Workers have gone on strike and protested for the past two Black Fridays.

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The United Taxi Workers Victory and the Struggle for a New Labor Movement

November 17, 2014 by Jim Miller

IMG_0767By Jim Miller

Last Monday’s victory for the United Taxi Workers of San Diego provided a much-needed boost for local labor.

After a year that has included some tough losses at the polls and the effort to save the minimum wage ordinance, it was inspiring to see the taxi drivers (largely East African immigrant workers) burst into celebration and pour out of Golden Hall chanting “USA!” as they embraced each other, mounted the planter boxes, and cheered for joy.

It was the kind of genuine expression of collective exuberance that comes when workers feel, perhaps for the first time, that they have taken ownership of their lives and destinies.

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Post Election Notes from the Left Coast: Apocalypse Now? Just Say No

November 10, 2014 by Jim Miller

Creative Commons image by Kevin Crumbs

By Jim Miller

Last week progressives in California rightfully felt a bit relieved that their state served as a seawall against the ocean of red that washed across America. Outside of our reactionary little backwater here in San Diego where Carl DeMaio can pretend to be moderate and almost win despite multiple scandals, there were bright spots in the rest of the state …

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3 Critical Votes Where You Can Make a Positive Difference on November 4th for California and San Diego

November 3, 2014 by Jim Miller

go voteBy Jim Miller

Most political observers are predicting bad results for the Democrats at the national level, but there are a few important races where progressives might be able to win key victories that will have a real effect here in California and a number of largely ignored down ballot contests where we can elect solid people while keeping some dangerous, incompetent characters out of public office.

More specifically, tomorrow we can:

1) Take a significant step away from the colossal stupidity of the last several decades of the war on drugs, senselessly draconian three strikes laws, a ballooning prison industrial complex, and surging economic inequality by passing Proposition 47. …

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Goodbye San Francisco Bay Guardian; Hello Wankergate

October 27, 2014 by Jim Miller

Bay Guardian Front PageBy Jim Miller

Recently, California lost one of its last remaining, genuinely progressive weeklies, the San Francisco Bay Guardian. As [people.power.media] tells the story:

The San Francisco Bay Guardian, the prize-winning newspaper and progressive voice, was shut down immediately by the San Francisco Media Company, after 48 years of “printing the news and raising hell.”

No warning for staff, just pack your boxes and get out. Boom. This historic independent newspaper, so long a pivotal force in San Francisco progressive politics and culture was suddenly treated as a corporate portfolio item, and lopped off the balance sheet . . .

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Utopia Revisited: Rethinking the Response to Faulconer’s Climate Action Plan

October 20, 2014 by Jim Miller

climate action plan sdBy Jim Miller

Since I last wrote on the People’s Climate March in late September, the grim environmental news has just kept coming in, whether it’s the revelation that September was the warmest month ever on planet earth, the Stanford study linking California’s grueling drought to climate change, the World Wildlife Federation report that the earth has lost half of its wildlife in the last fifty years, or the unpleasant surprise that, “In what could be termed as the worst effect of degrading climatic conditions and global warming, a new study has showed that fish in large numbers will disappear from the tropics by 2050”—it just doesn’t let up.

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Notes From the Education Wars: Marshall Tuck and the Plot Against Public Education

October 13, 2014 by Jim Miller

marshall-tuck-getting-chased-by-families-670x250By Jim Miller

After my column last week on the battle between Tom Torlakson and the corporate education reform machine backing Marshall Tuck, I was pleased to see The Nation magazine’s special issue on schools. The writers aptly note that the struggle in American education is not one of the “status quo” versus “reform,” but rather, it is between a kind of educational class war dressed up as reform and a more progressive vision that seeks to empower all kids equally.

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Tom Torlakson Versus the Corporate Education Reform Machine

October 6, 2014 by Jim Miller

The Most Important Race on the Ballot is the One No One is Talking About

DFER real democrats

By Jim Miller

This fall in San Diego the Peters vs. DeMaio and Kim vs. Cate showdowns are getting all the attention, but my pick for the most important race on the ballot is one that nobody is taking note of at the statewide level—and that’s a problem. The race in question is for . . . (wait for it) . . . State Superintendent of Public Instruction!

O.K. I know, Superintendent of Public Instruction races don’t usually get peoples’ hearts pumping, but if you are dismayed by the full-court-press assault on teachers, public education, and democratic local control over schools, …

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San Diego City Works Press, Sunshine/Noir II: Writing from San Diego and Tijuana

September 29, 2014 by Jim Miller

cityworks

November 1st Deadline Approaching

By Jim Miller

San Diego City Works Press is still accepting submissions for Sunshine/Noir II until November 1st. In particular we are looking for creative non-fiction pieces about underrepresented communities in San Diego and generally uncovered topics with regard to life in our region. We are also looking for good fiction, poetry, and artwork that runs against the grain of San Diego’s official story.

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America’s First Banned Book and the Battle for the Soul of the Country

September 22, 2014 by Jim Miller

New English Canaan CoverBy Jim Miller

It’s Banned Books Week and what better way to kick it off than with a salute to America’s first banned book: Thomas Morton’s New English Canaan published in 1637? New English Canaan is a three-volume affair containing Morton’s sympathetic observations about Native Americans along with a celebration of the beauty of the natural world and a fierce satire of the Puritans.

While some scholars point to other books such as John Eliot’s The Christian Commonwealth (written in the late 1640s) or William Pynchon’s The Meritorious Price of Our Redemption (1650)as the first books to be banned by the Puritans for theological or historical reasons, Morton’s New English Canaan precedes both of these texts and the conflict surrounding it is far more important and illustrative with regard to the political and cultural history of the United States.

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The People’s Climate March – What Will It Take to Save the Planet?

September 18, 2014 by Jim Miller

ClimateMarchBadgeBy Jim Miller and Kelly Mayhew

This coming Sunday, September 21st, is the People’s Climate March in New York City, here in San Diego, and elsewhere around the world.

The organizers hope that it will be “an unprecedented citizen mobilization” occurring “[a]s world leaders meet at the United Nations climate change summit” while marchers demand “the world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change;…”

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The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce: Oppressed Underdog?

September 8, 2014 by Jim Miller

A Pathetic Attempt to Re-Write History

Jerry Sanders 7By Jim Miller

Recently UT-San Diego sat down with San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Jerry Sanders for an interview so he could lay out the Chamber’s “new” aggressive political action plan.

During the course of the interview Sanders was steadfast in his insistence that the Chamber exists to respond to the mythic hegemony of labor in San Diego politics.

For instance, when discussing the perceived need for the recent referendums on affordable housing, the Barrio Logan plan, and the minimum wage and earned sick days ordinance he explained:

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Unions and the Future of American Democracy

September 2, 2014 by Jim Miller

labor movementBy Jim Miller

Over the last year, the subject of economic inequality has been in the news quite a bit with the release of Robert Reich’s spectacular documentary Inequality for All and economist Thomas Piketty’s seminal work, Capital in the Twentieth Century. The picture they paint is a grim one and new bad numbers just keep rolling in.

For instance, a few weeks ago a Russell Sage Foundation study revealed that the wealth of the typical American household has dropped nearly 20 percent since 1984 and yet another study notes that private sector wages measured in real terms have dipped 16.2 percent since their 1972 high point. In the wake of that news, another US Census Bureau report came out showing that middle class household wealth fell by 35 percent between 2005 and 2011.

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Why Read? In Defense of Uselessness

August 18, 2014 by Jim Miller

happyfaceBy Jim Miller

While I still deeply love my chosen profession of teaching after twenty-five years of work at various colleges with the last seventeen of those at San Diego City College, it’s hard not to notice the constant drumbeat of critics casting doubt on the value of my life’s work in the humanities.

Whether they be corporate education reformers bent on imposing a business model on colleges or techno-boosters with a zeal to toss all that I hold dear into the dustbin of history, there is a long line of naysayers.

As David Masciotra recently noted in “Pulling the Plug on English Departments” in The Daily Beast, “The armies of soft philistinism are on the march and eager to ditch traditional literature instruction in favor of more utilitarian approaches . . . It is easy to observe the sad and sickly decline of American intellectual life, through the cultural and institutional lowering of standards, when prestigious publications promote the defense, if not the celebration, of lower standards.”

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Kevin Faulconer’s War on the Poor

August 11, 2014 by Jim Miller

war on the poor2By Jim Miller

Despite the fact that 63% of San Diegans support raising the wage, Mayor Faulconer vetoed San Diego’s minimum wage ordinance, definitively proving that he is more loyal to local plutocrats than to the people of the city, particularly those who work hard for very little.

Yes, with a stroke of the pen, Kevin Faulconer denied a raise to 172,000 people and took away earned sick days for even more local workers, a move that disproportionately affects women and people of color. Just as one could begin to feel good about the fact that our city did the right thing and stood up for those of our friends and neighbors who are most in need of a hand up, Mayor Faulconer struck them down.

When it was time to love his neighbors, he slammed the door in their faces. Rather than living with a more than reasonable compromise that will help rather than harm the local economy, he chose to declare war on the poor instead.

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In Paradise – for the Time Being

August 4, 2014 by Jim Miller

Devils_Postpile_National_Monument_near_Mammoth_LakesBy Jim Miller

I recently had the pleasure of spending some time at Devils Postpile National Monument basking in the stunning beauty of that geological marvel and the accompanying reminder of the deep time that underlies the shallow surface history that we mistake for all that is.

Indeed, if there is a heaven, places like this are surely part of it. Nonetheless, while pondering the unintentional artistry of glaciers it was impossible not to notice how dry the mountains are now after several years of drought.

In and around Yosemite, the creeks, rivers, and waterfalls are drying up far earlier than usual, and the forests are perpetually vulnerable to fire.

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After the Minimum Wage Win: the Battle Continues

July 21, 2014 by Jim Miller

Closeup of business people standingBy Jim Miller

San Diego’s progressive community got a well deserved shout-out last week in the national media with The Nation praising the good work of our city’s “expanding progressive base.”

More specifically, the article noted that the local movement to raise the minimum wage was comprised of many of the same folks who formed the community-labor alliance behind the David Alvarez mayoral campaign:

That coalition, Raise Up San Diego, includes the Center for Policy Initiatives as well as labor unions, immigrant rights groups and service providers.

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What Kind of City Is San Diego? It’s Time to Raise the Minimum Wage

July 14, 2014 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

raise min wageThe San Diego City Council will consider today whether to pass an ordinance or put forth a ballot measure to increase the city’s minimum wage and provide earned sick days for local workers.

Since the last time I wrote on this subject in late April, the original proposal of raising the minimum wage to the local Self-Sufficiency Standard of $13.09 with five earned sick days has been significantly lowered in order to address the concerns of opponents.

The current proposal keeps the initial five earned sick days but now only raises the minimum wage to $9.75 in 2015 …

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What the Supreme Court’s Harris v. Quinn Decision Means for Workers and American Democracy

July 7, 2014 by Jim Miller

David Sachs/SEIU via Equal Times

By Jim Miller

After last week’s slew of bad Supreme Court rulings much of the media attention rightfully went to the horrendous “Hobby Lobby” case where the rights of corporations were deemed more important than the rights of women.

But there was another big decision where the Supreme Court surprised some observers and ruled narrowly on Harris v. Quinn, the case which could have gutted public sector unions and virtually wiped out their ability to play in American politics by ending all public sector unions’ ability to collect agency fees. As the Daily Kos noted of the case:

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Endless Summer: On the Verge of the Sixth Extinction

June 30, 2014 by Jim Miller

sixth extinction“The end of the human race will be that it will eventually die of civilization.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

We’ve seen a lot of bad news lately from the dismaying results of our last local election and a slew of reactionary court decisions at the state and national level to the re-emergence of the chaos in Iraq and the seemingly daily news reports of growing evidence that our widening level of economic inequality is becoming an entrenched and sadly taken-for-granted part of our new normal.

Even as we head into the heedless days of summer, we are greeted by yet more studies …

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San Diego Grit: Remembering Tony Gwynn

June 23, 2014 by Jim Miller

IMG_20140619_142336_131By Jim Miller

Tony Gwynn died last week and it stopped me. In part it was because he died too soon at 54, only four years older than me and many of my friends who grew up watching and admiring his skill as a player. As is always the case when someone who has been a part of your collective experience goes, there is a new hole in your life, that sense that something’s missing that won’t come back except as a ghost, a haunting memory.

But it was more than that. With the death of Gwynn, San Diego lost the last of his kind, a Southern California product who went to school at SDSU, came up with the Padres, and stayed here for his entire career, …

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What’s Wrong with the Recent Court Decision for Teachers

June 16, 2014 by Jim Miller

BlueRobot / Foter / Creative Commons AttributionBy Jim Miller and Kelly Mayhew

Last week’s decision in the Vergara v. the State of California lawsuit that undermined tenure and seniority rights was a profound slap in the face to teachers who have committed their careers to improving the lives of our children. It was yet another significant victory for those who are seeking to impose corporate education reforms by pitting teachers against children in a cynical, destructive, and utterly counterproductive fashion.

As tenured professors in the community college system, union members, and parents of a child in California’s public school system, we have a unique perspective on this matter. …

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June Gloom: Inequality for All, Really

June 9, 2014 by Jim Miller

plutomoney-470x219By Jim Miller

“When you skip voting it’s not rebellion, it’s surrender.”

That was the apt Facebook meme doing the rounds last week after a brutal primary election where a pathetically low turnout led to a very good night for Republicans and the corporate interests they represent. Of course this was not at all unexpected as June primaries have always been lethargic affairs, but this one was even more embarrassing.

Indeed, with labor significantly depleted after losing a big mayoral special election and fractured local Democrats still reeling, the right saw an opportunity to go for the kill and they did, outspending the Democrats in nearly every race and burying the community of Barrio Logan under a mountain of corporate-funded bullshit.

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Five Reasons to Vote on June 3rd

June 2, 2014 by Jim Miller
Thumbnail image for Five Reasons to Vote on June 3rd

By Jim Miller

What if they had an election and nobody came?

That’s the feel that this June’s primary has to it and, after a nasty and seemingly unrelenting political year from the Filner scandal on, it’s understandable that folks are burned out and/or disgusted enough to stay home.

Nevertheless, while most San Diegans are meeting tomorrow’s election with a collective shrug, there are a number of things at stake that will affect our lives and the future of our local and statewide democracy in important ways.

Here are a few key areas that should motivate progressives to get to the polls: jpallan via flickr

1) The balance of power in the city is at stake.

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San Diego City Works Press Calls for Submissions for Its Anthology – “Sunshine/Noir II” – Writings from San Diego and Tijuana

May 27, 2014 by Jim Miller

SDCWPBy Jim Miller

San Diego City Works Press is soon approaching its 10-year anniversary. SDCWP is run by a 100% non-profit collective and is the only small literary press in San Diego that focuses primarily on the publication of local writers with an emphasis on our region that moves beyond the postcard version of our reality.

In an era where commercial forces and hegemonic instrumentality are drowning out what remains of literary culture, we have persisted against the odds. We invite all interested parties to be a part of our beautifully useless endeavor.

To celebrate our anniversary, we are putting together a second edition of our first anthology, Sunshine/Noir II. All local writers are encouraged to submit work for consideration.

See the relevant details inside:

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San Diego Burning: the Facts We Hate

May 19, 2014 by Jim Miller

pendleton fire  cc license

By Jim Miller

It was a little bit of hell on earth. With searing heat in the triple digits replacing May gray and fires sprouting up all over the county, San Diego’s mellow vibe turned menacing last week.

As many of us, this author included, worried about the safety of friends and family members in harm’s way, it was hard not to be struck by a painful sense of déjà vu. We’ve been here before—three times in a little more than a decade. But not everybody felt that way.

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What’s at Stake With Propositions B and C?

May 12, 2014 by Jim Miller

“Everyone who wants to preserve community control over the planning process should be afraid because your community will be next!” –Georgette Gomez, Associate Director of the Environmental Health Coalition

EHC SpeakerBy Jim Miller

As we head toward the June 3rd election, the same corporate interests who spent big money to fund a petition drive based on lies to force a vote on the Barrio Logan Community Plan are now funding an equally dishonest campaign to defeat it.

As the San Diego Reader recently noted, the No on B and C Campaign’s sleazy tactics include teaming former mayor and current corporate front man Jerry Sanders up with a “crooked ex-admiral” to repeat the same bald-faced lies about how the Barrio Logan Community Plan will kill jobs and drive the Navy out of San Diego.

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Remember the Folks Who Brought You the 8-Hour Day?

May 5, 2014 by Jim Miller

By Jim Miller

8hours1Last week, May Day came and went and, while there was a small march downtown, most people barely noticed. Indeed most Americans don’t know much about May Day and if they do, they associate it with the state sponsored holiday in the former Soviet Union.

The truth of the matter is, however, that May Day has deep American roots. It started in 1866 as part of the movement pushing for the 8-hour day.

As historian Jacob Remes reminds us:

The demand for an eight-hour day was about leisure, self-improvement and freedom, but it was also about power. When Eight Hour Leagues agitated for legislation requiring short hours, they were demanding what had never before happened: that the government regulate industry for the advantage of workers.

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Raise Up San Diego – Do the Right Thing About the Minimum Wage

April 28, 2014 by Jim Miller

raiseuplogoBy Jim Miller

These are still tough times for most working people in the United States. We are in the midst of a new Gilded Age of historic economic inequality. The rich are carving out a bigger slice of the pie at the expense of nearly everyone else in America. As I noted in my column last week, corporate profits are at their highest level in 85 years and employee compensation is at the lowest level it has been in 65 years.

And this is happening despite the fact that the average American worker is more educated and more productive than ever before. The result of all this is a declining middle class, economic instability, and the hijacking of our democracy by moneyed interests.

Here in San Diego, we have one of the highest costs of living in the United States, ….

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Who Owns America? Not You

April 21, 2014 by Jim Miller

Oligarchy 1“We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” –Louis Brandeis

By Jim Miller

In the wake of the McCutcheon decision, there was a brief flurry of outrage about the growing power of moneyed interests in our politics, but it predictably ebbed. One might reasonably argue that this is because the American public has become immune to such bad news.

Indeed, a cursory survey of the media over the last couple of weeks alone is enough to give any concerned citizen a depressing snapshot of where we are now with regard to wealth versus commonwealth.

The New York Times reports that “Corporate Profits Grow and Wages Slide” noting that, “Corporate profits are at their highest level in at least 85 years. Employee compensation is at the lowest level in 65 years.”

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